Monday, June 13, 2011

America is happy: good triumphed over evil: the Mavericks beat the Heat: Dirk is a champ; LeBron is a chump

Outside of South Florida, all of America is happy. The lovable Mavericks defeated the hated Heat in 6 games, winning the NBA Championship.

There has been much speculation as to why America was rooting for Dallas, and why America so hates LeBron James. Most of the talk centers around "The Decision," where LeBron held a one hour interview on live TV in order to announce last summer that he was going to sign a free agent contract with the Miami Heat.

That is part of the reason no one but Heat fans wanted to see LeBron win. But it's not the biggest reason. Here, then, are the top 10 reasons why America rooted for Dallas and against Miami in the NBA Championships:

1. The spurned woman syndrome. LeBron James grew up near Cleveland in Akron, Ohio. LeBron never had another girlfriend in the pros. He was married to Cleveland. He had played his entire career with the Cavaliers. Cleveland had been a good and loving wife. Cleveland did everything in her powers to make LeBron happy. Cleveland paid LeBron the top salary possible. Cleveland tried everything it could to acquire good players around LeBron to help him win a ring. Yet the second a prettier girl shook her hips in LeBron’s direction, he fell for the bait. He left his loyal wife for a younger, sexier model named Miami. No one loves the man who quits on his loyal wife. We identify with the spurned woman.

2. Cleveland as an underdog. It is not just the case that Cleveland has a poor economy, bad weather and miserable people. It’s that Cleveland never has had much luck with its pro sports teams. The Indians had a few good teams in the 1990s, but they haven’t won since the 1950s. And the Browns, ever since the great Jim Brown retired in the 1960s, have been a perennial loser, almost always finishing with a losing record. But that bad luck seemed to have turned around with the arrival of LeBron James. He took them to the Finals a few years ago; and each of his last 4 years in Cleveland had made the Cavaliers one of the best teams in the NBA. It seemed like just a matter of time before the Cavs would finally win it all. But then LeBron bolted. By quitting on them, he took away that hope for that underdog city.

3. The Decision as a shocker. It makes for much better theater when you have a drama and you don’t know the outcome. So give LeBron credit for not spilling the beans in advance of his announcement that he was going to play for Miami. But because no word had leaked out, just about everyone thought this was all a big show about nothing—that he would remain with the Cavaliers. So the shock was all that much worse when he announced he was quitting on his team, his city, and his fans. The second we collectively recovered from LeBron's sucker punch, the shock turned to anger, hurt and disappointment.

4. The Decision as egotism + The Miami Dance Party. It’s hard not to be an egoist when you have the god-given gifts of LeBron James. That said, he came across as terribly arrogant when he stated, “I am taking my talents to South Beach.” Never mind that the Heat play in Miami, not South Beach, which is in a different city (Miami Beach). The fact that he referred to his “talents” in the third person made it sound as if he pictured himself as above a human being, that he carried around this amazement known as his “talents.” Add to that the egoism of the celebration held in Miami before the season in which LeBron and his new mates danced and laughed and proclaimed they would win 8 championships as a group. That is hard to like when LeBron had never won anything.

5. The Conspiracy. The fact that LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, all of whom played together on Team USA conspired well in advance of their free agency to form a super team in the NBA makes this Miami Heat group feel inorganic. It’s not that they are a super team. The Lakers are a super team. The Celtics are another. There have been many past teams which had multiple superstars in their primes at the same time. But unlike all of those who came before this Heat team, the others were formed one piece at a time by the draft, by a trade or by adding a single free agent. In this case, it was clear that the Team USA teammates went around the traditional system. They took charge. They created this Miami Heat super team. And the team feels inauthentic for it.

6. Dallas as an underdog. The Mavericks have been around as an expansion team since the 1980-81 season. Yet they had never won a championship. Everyone loves the underdog. Everyone will keep on loving Dallas, unless they hurt us by continuing to win. Then they will be an overdog.

7. Dirk Nowitzki as an underdog. Dirk has been viewed for a long time as a very good, yet somewhat soft Euro. He’s a 7-foot tall man, yet all he seemed able to do was shoot from the outside. But after 13 years in the NBA, after progressively getting better, developing toughness, playing better team defense, learning how to drive to the basket and post up, and learning how to take charge of his team and to command respect from his opponents, his story arc is one fans can identify with. He overcame his own faults and worked and worked until he was good enough to win. Unlike LeBron, he was never handed the expectations of being an all-time great. He just made himself into one.

8. Race, but not racism. The fact that Dirk Nowitzki, the best player on Dallas, is white and that whites are generally bad at basketball compared with blacks, makes any great white player an anomaly and to that extent an underdog. As such, all very good white players tend to get overrated and over-loved in the NBA. If half the league were white, no one would care. But because 85% of the league is black and because 95 percent of the greatest players of all time are black makes the fans, who are naturally drawn to the underdog, root for the rare good white guy. This may sound like white racism. However, I think it is the same thing in other sports where most of the athletes are white and the black star is rare. In hockey, the few great black players get extra love for it. The same is true with black golfers, white sprinters in track, black swimmers, black skiers, etc.

9. The other Mavericks. Jason Kidd, for one, has been in the league a long time. He is one of the best point guards of all time. He will be in the Hall of Fame. Yet he had never before won a ring. Another is JJ Barea, a little man who came up big time and again in this post-season. I think people are happy for Jason Terry, who started out playing poorly but improved as the series went on and was the best player on the court in the final game.

10. The ugly factor. LeBron is not a good looking man. I don't think anyone hates him for that. However, his ugly face makes it easier to see him in the role of a villain. The same could never be said about Michael Jordan, who was born with good looks and loads of talent.

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